Researcher Miguel Bastos Araújo points out the relationship between climate and virus spread

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In terms of the number of people infected in the world, since the beginning of January and until last Tuesday, there is “a concentration of cases in areas with a cool temperature, around six and nine to 10 degrees,” he said. , in statements to the agency Lusa.

According to the researcher, Prémio Pessoa in 2018 and responsible for the Chair in the area of ​​Biodiversity at the University of Évora (UÉ), “most cases” of people with Covid-19 disease occur “in dry areas” and “with low rainfall “during the infection period.

This relationship “which seems to exist between the epidemic characteristics of the virus and the climate” is one of the results of a study by Miguel Bastos Araújo and Iranian researcher Babak Naimi, from the University of Helsinki (Finland).

In the case of Portugal, he exemplified, “what is expected is that, now, in March and April, the virus will continue to expand”, because “it will be able to do so”, but it is expected that, “from May or June abruptly decay “.

“Which is not to say that contagion does not continue because, for example, inside the home, with air conditioning, these are ideal conditions for the spread of the virus. What is expected is that this spread is much more reduced, the conditions of ecosystem are less suitable for the virus “, he added.

The two researchers, from an American database, downloaded the positive cases of the new coronavirus, with their respective geographical projection – they only considered locations with more than five cases -, and related them “with the climatic conditions in that region” during periods of contagion.

They were thus able to characterize what, technically, is called the “climatic envelope”, that is, “the climatic conditions where these positive cases occurred”.

“When doing this geographic analysis, we detected what the global environmental envelope of the virus is at this moment, and we designed, with a series of artificial intelligence models”, which will be, throughout the year, “the risk of contagion , based on climatic variables, in particular temperature and precipitation “, explained Miguel Bastos Araújo.

The researchers concluded “that there is a seasonality in the attribution of the risk of contagion”, that is, “this is not an eternal crescendo without any kind of environmental control. The most likely is that there is a seasonality, as in the flu” and “as there was also in SARS-CoV “, the other previous coronavirus, which is” cousin “to the current one (called SARS-CoV-2), he defended.

This seasonality factor, in addition to the example of Portugal, will also “make the southern hemisphere, when there is winter”, at the same time that it will be summer in the northern hemisphere, “suffer the increased incidence of the virus”, he argued.

“We are talking about Argentina, South Africa, Chile, southern Brazil and Australia, for example,” he said.

According to the researcher, also “the cold temperate region, which includes Canada, Russia and the Scandinavian countries, will have a very risky summer” for the spread of the virus: “Their summer is similar to spring here, so there is a displacement, not only to the south, but also to the north, of the risks of incidence of the virus “.

Asked by Lusa about researchers who reject the link between the climate and the new coronavirus, Miguel Bastos Araújo said he disagrees, contrasting that, like SARS-CoV, whose “climate preference” has been studied and scientifically attested, it seems evident that this SARS-CoV-2 will not “be insensitive to the conditions of temperature and humidity”.

The researchers, who are waiting for the results of the study to be published in a scientific journal, chose to disclose them – the investigation continues – because they believe they are “doing a bad service to society” by withholding the information.

And they argue that, given this correlation between climate and epidemiological characteristics of the virus, countries have time to adapt and prepare health services for a new epidemic.

The new coronavirus responsible for Covid-19 was detected in December in China and has already caused more than 5,300 deaths worldwide, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the disease as a pandemic.

The number of infected people has exceeded 140 thousand people, with cases registered in more than 120 countries and territories, including Portugal, which has 112 confirmed cases.

The WHO said today that the epicenter of the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus has moved from China to Europe.

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